Drop your jaws now

The Yamaha DX-1 is a beautiful synthesizer. Those dark wood sides mask the fact that this is not your typical vintage synthesizer. Rather, it was one of the first digital synthesizers, the big-big brother of the ubiquitous DX-7 (which arguably shoved most of the American synth companies out of business). And look at all those lights on it! The DX-7 has a reputation for being difficult to use. Actually, most FM synthesizers have that reputation. The synthesis model is difficult for most people to grasp (myself included) and it’s hard to know what’s going on inside the synthesizer. But with all the LEDs on the DX-1, how could you not know what it’s doing? It’s basically like sitting in the flight deck. On second thought, I would be even more confused if I were sitting if the flight deck. What do all these levers do? Which button makes the airplane go faster? When are they going to notice that I’m not the captain and make me return to my seat? Getting off track here…

When I first saw a picture of one I thought, “Ooh, I ought to keep my eye open for a cheap one and pick it up”. Ahhh…such naivety. At some point I came across one on eBay and was stunned.

$10,000?! Yep. Indeed, some go for even higher.

Let’s back up. I know there are crazy sellers online who try to list something for a ridiculously inflated price. I’m not sure what they are thinking, but that stuff never sells. But these DX-1’s occasionally sell for that much! Again, simply stunning.

Apparently Yamaha only made a couple hundred of these. So this is a nice example of supply/demand laws in action. But as much as I think it’s a very nice synthesizer, I think the people buying these are nuts:

1. There are FM synthesizers with better specs. I’ve heard folks reason that the digital converters in the DX-1 are really special. They might be, but $10,000 special? Silly. The DX-5 is a little less pretty but is basically the same vintage. And it sells for $500. Otherwise, Yamaha made a ton of other FM synths through the 80s.

2. Vintage stuff breaks down, and this is a vintage esoteric computer, not an analog circuit. I mean, I can’t really fix either, but it’s a lot easier to find someone that can fix analog circuits. Finding someone to fix a DX-1? I have no idea who would touch that. Need spare parts? Hopefully Yamaha used off-the-shelf components. Otherwise good luck conning one of the other 200 DX-1 owners in the world to part out their baby.

3. All lists are better with three points. I’ve got to get back to work.

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